Happy, New Year, island friends! With the beginning of a new year, comes the passing of another season filled with the bustle of giving. Over the holidays, I’m sure many of you were on the receiving end of someone’s act of kindness, but chances are, for more than a few of you, the giving of “gifts” was much easier than the receiving. Interesting, isn’t it?
As I’ve continued to grow (yes, this doesn’t stop at adulthood), I’ve continued to learn a lot about myself. The things that I enjoy that take very little effort and are welcomed directly into my heart, and the things that I enjoy, that well, I want, but somehow think I don’t deserve. I like to consider myself an open-hearted person (I certainly wear my heart on my sleeve), but there are a few things that can challenge me and make me recognize I’ve still got some walls that could stand to come down. One of those challenges is in receiving.
Most of my life I’ve been the classic “giver”—especially in relationships with others. Kind gestures, thoughtful gifts, going out of my way, sharing words of encouragement, inspirational pep talks; if I can do something to improve someone else’s well being, I’ll certainly give my best. However, when the tables are turned, and I need help or am on the receiving end of someone’s thoughtful gesture, I can often find myself wondering anything from what their motive is, to why someone would want to be so nice to me, or generally feeling…vulnerable. Perhaps you can relate?
The funny thing, and perhaps the problem in itself, is that many of us think that when we receive, we have a responsibility to give something in return or that we don’t deserve what is being offered to us. Our first reaction is to say, “I can’t possibly take this!” and our mind begins to ponder, “How am I going to repay the favor?” We’ve even been conditioned to say, “No, that’s ok!”, when truthfully, our heart wants to say, “Yes, please.” Nobody wants to be a bother. The reality is, giving with an expectation to receive something in return is not the highest and truest form of giving, and receiving with the intent that we must now give something in return, turns the whole experience into a transaction. I’m certainly not saying that we shouldn’t express our appreciation, simply that it’s okay to allow ourselves to receive kindness for the sake of honoring our own self-worth AND in allowing the giver to feel those feelings that come along with being able to do something just to make someone feel good. In fact, I know how wonderful it makes me feel when someone accepts what I have to offer them, so why would I deny that experience for someone else?
The reality is, giving with an expectation to receive something in return is not the highest and truest form of giving, and receiving with the intent that we must now give something in return, turns the whole experience into a transaction.
My month long stay in Key West this past July was paradise, but it wasn’t all palm trees and sunsets. It was really interesting to process my internal reactions to the kindness shown to me by complete strangers, as well as new friends. Being in a place where I had no roots, I had to consciously practice discernment when invitations were given and people offered to help me out. Something as simple as asking for a ride to the airport from a new friend was strange for me, when I was so used to doing everything on my own. Generous strangers purchased drinks and appetizers at Happy Hour in the Seaport. Incredible friends treated me to dinners and rides to the grocery store, paddleboarding excursions and adventures off the beaten path, a trip to the Tortugas, and gourmet cupcakes too! Even upon returning home, a good friend drove an hour and a half just to pick me up when my flight was delayed and I missed my airport shuttle—just because she wanted to.
Accepting all of these experiences and the generosity that was shown to me, especially in many cases where it was impossible to “repay the favor”, allowed me to open my heart and let the goodness that we ALL deserve step inside. I have no doubt that we get what we give, so even if we’re not scrambling to balance out the “gifts” given to us directly with something tangible, the universe will do its thing and you’ll find yourself bringing that same generosity forward to someone else, while the cycle of giving inevitably makes its way back to the person who went out of their way for you in the first place.
Be generous…be gracious—especially with your thoughts and your words. Be open to receiving all that you are worthy of. Give without remembering…take without forgetting.